Today’s Readings: Numbers 10-11; Psalm 49; 1 Corinthians 7:1-24
I don’t remember growing up getting participation trophies. I don’t know if that was a thing but I just can’t remember it or if we actually didn’t have them in the sports and activities I was a part of.
I feel like youth sports often gets the brunt of a lot of angst from parents. Stereotypically you have three parents whose kids are in sports.
- the parent who is overly involved by micromanaging everything the coach, refs and player does on the field. This parent is often seen yelling at the ref when a slight call is missed…
- the parent who is angsty because they don’t want their kid to receive any handouts at all. They are often heard telling their kid to “rub some dirt in it” and “stop crying like that.”
- and then there is the parent we all aspire to be who finds a happy median and just lets their kids have fun and don’t get too wrapped up into it. It is 2nd grade soccer after all.
One parent demands that all the kids get trophies, one parent demands that no one but the winner gets a trophy and the last parent just doesn’t think it’s a big deal either way.
Often, I’ve heard the argument against participation trophies that it creates an entitlement mindset in our kids. Personally, I think the fact that Instagram and Facebook are a thing is more contributing to that than anything. Before Facebook and Instagram, if you were taking pictures of yourself and posting about your life all the time we were seen as narcissistic and self-centered. Now it’s called normal behavior…
Whatever causes the entitlement issue in people, the fact still remains that it has always been around.
In our first reading this morning, Numbers 10-11 illuminates a huge glaring issue:
Israel is still as messed up as they were leaving Sinai as they were first coming to Sinai. The first thing that they do, and Moses too, is complain.
Heaven forbid, God in His infinite mercy and grace that He has so abundantly lavished upon them be too little for this people. They complain that God’s daily miracle for them of providing Manna in the desert is now something to hold a grudge against and reject. So, naturally they demand meat to eat rather than this flaky Manna stuff.
Here’s the reality of it all though: I’m actually the same way. Honestly, in all sincerity, y’all who are reading this are probably a lot less entitled and self-centered than me.
I wake up thinking about me and what I want.
I go to work thinking about me and what I want.
I read my Bible and think about what I want.
I go throughout my whole day thinking about me, what I want, and subtly what I deserve.
If I was Israel out in the desert and all I ate was Manna for a whole year, I would be complaining and feel entitled to have something else to eat, too. Again, if I’m really honest with you, I’m just still learning how to do this whole follow-Jesus thing.
So I can totally empathize with how Israel gets where they get. I don’t think it takes too much imagination to do so. But often, when I’m at my worst, I read about Israel in judgment. I think about how I would live differently, how I would do things right, how I would follow the law and worship God with all my heart.
I wouldn’t. I’m so sad to say that but I really probably wouldn’t do any of that. I would be just like them.
So, God goes on and actually gives Israel exactly what they desire, but it actually is more in the form of a discipline than a blessing. He gives them meat to eat so that they become so sick of it. They are craving for meat and the text says that the one who gathered the least gathered at minimum 10 homers… that’s 2200 liters of quail. I don’t know if anyone could actually eat that so maybe the text is just saying that the person who grabbed the least amount was more than they could ever eat in a sitting.
God does this to show them, I think, that He is the supremely good God who would have been more than willing to give them meat to eat if they had actually come to Him in a worshipful and honoring way.
So how do we fight against the urge or impulse to demand from God what we think we are entitled?
I think without the empowerment of the Spirit of God, all bets are off.
But as Christians, we have the very Spirit of God dwelling in us.
So by that same power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead, I think we need to fight to live with Christ always before us.
What do I mean by that?
I think what that looks like is developing a constant God consciousness, an ever-present awareness of God’s presence with us in Jesus by the Spirit.
I remember John Piper teaching on that somewhere one time in an interview and it struck me as so difficult. I remember laying in bed in my dorm room praying that the first thing I thought of was God and not me. I wanted to have God on my mind always. I didn’t want to have other things captivating my mind so intensely that it pushed Him out of my mental vision.
I think we do that by the power of the Spirit, the Spirit who gives us life and has marked us with a seal as God’s children (Rom. 8). I think we do that by relying upon the Spirit to transform our minds (Rom. 12).
But that does require us to actually practice setting Christ always before us.
I think it’s interesting in Numbers 10 that the purpose of making these silver trumpets was so that every time Israel heard them, they were to be reminders of what God had done and was doing and was going to do with them.
For us, we need to develop some practical practices for how it is we are going to be reminded of God’s imminent presence with us throughout our days.
Maybe it’s practicing hourly prayer where you set a specific alarm to go off every hour and you pray a quick prayer.
Maybe it’s reading the scriptures in the morning and trying to memorize a verse to keep with you in the day to chew on and ruminate on and apply throughout your experiences that day.
Maybe it’s wearing a rubber band on your wrist and every time it pulls on your arm hair you are reminded of God’s presence (I don’t know if that’s a thing, but I’m wanting to show you that you can you a lot of things as spiritual practices and disciplines).
I think as we develop an ever-present awareness of God’s presence with us in Jesus, I think we actually start to look more and more at the life and character of Jesus as a mirror that we start to conform our lives to.
The whole W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do) is actually a really great principle to live by, particularly if we memorize Philippians 2 and live with Jesus’ humble character always before us.
So all that being said, no one is perfect and the Israelites were definitely not just like I’m not. But through receiving Jesus, who took the penalty of my sin and credited to me His righteousness in His death and resurrection on the cross, we actually receive the same Spirit that empowered Him to do all things.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 12-14:12; Psalm 50:1-9; 1 Corinthians 7:25-8:13